Rags to Riches (song)

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"Rags to Riches" is a 1953 popular song by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross.[1] The best-known version of the song, recorded by Tony Bennett with Percy Faith and his orchestra, was number one for eight weeks on the Billboard chart in 1953 and became a gold record.[2] In the same year, a version by David Whitfield reached number three in the British charts and one by Billy Ward and his Dominoes with Jackie Wilson singing lead made number two on Billboard's R&B chart. Later recordings by Sunny & the Sunliners (#45 in 1963)[3] and Elvis Presley (#33 in 1971)[4] also made the Billboard charts.

The music is based on a Spanish or a Latin American melody.

A recording by Les Howard with orchestra conducted by Frank Cordell was made in London on November 14, 1953. It was released by EMI on the His Master's Voice label as catalog number B 10610.

Tony Bennett's version was used at the beginning of the film Goodfellas, just after Henry Hill closes the trunk of the car and says in voice-over, "As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster."[5] The song was also used in an episode of Columbo.[6]

The opening line of the song was sung regularly and exuberantly by the character Carmine Ragusa on the television series Laverne & Shirley,[7] typically when he had good news.

"Rags to Riches" provided the basis for an unusual moment late in Elvis Presley's career. Near the end of a New Year's Eve concert on December 31, 1976, Elvis announced he would sing the song—which his band evidently had not rehearsed and did not know. Playing piano, and giving chord instructions to his surprised band members, Elvis sang a surprisingly strong version, especially considering he had not recorded it since 1971, five years earlier. This rendition earned a loud ovation from the audience in Pittsburgh's Civic Arena. This was the only time Elvis sang the song in live performance. An audience member captured the moment on a recording that was later bootlegged.[citation needed]

In 2006, Barry Manilow included "Rags to Riches" on the album The Greatest Songs of the Fifties.[8]

The song is featured in the 2010 video game Mafia II.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Suskin, Steven (2010). Show Tunes: The Songs, Shows, and Careers of Broadway's Major Composers (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 243. ISBN 978-0-19-531407-6. 
  2. ^ Evanier, David (2011). All the Things You Are: The Life of Tony Bennett. John Wiley & Sons. p. 94. ISBN 978-1-118-03354-8. 
  3. ^ "Hot 100". Billboard: 16. December 21, 1963. 
  4. ^ "Hot 100". Billboard: 60. April 10, 1971. 
  5. ^ "Goodfellas (1990) : Quotes". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2016-07-23. 
  6. ^ "A Bird in the Hand". Columbo. November 22, 1992. Retrieved 2013-09-27. 
  7. ^ Brant, Marley (2006). Happier Days: Paramount Television's Classic Sitcoms, 1974–1984. Billboard Books. p. 74. ISBN 0-8230-8933-9. 
  8. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine (2006-01-31). "The Greatest Songs of the Fifties – Barry Manilow | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-07-23.